The pens have been carefully made: A small block of tulipwood is placed in a lathe, where it is coaxed into shape. The wood is then sanded, sealed, polished and waxed.
From there, the craftsmen assemble pieces to turn the wood into pens.
“And then they come running to me and they show them off,” said teacher Nicole Larson of the craftsmen, seventh- and eighth-graders at East Valley Middle School.
“They’re beautiful,” Larson said. “They’re neat pens.”
Students have been creating the one-of-a-kind pens during the After School Enrichment program. Larson said the program is funded through a five-year 21st Century grant – EVMS received $50,000 a year for improving math performance. This is the last year of the grant.
The school identified students in the free and reduced-price lunch program in need of extra help in math. They provided activities that use math such as woodshop, cooking, sewing, crafts, robotics and welding. They also had a study club for anyone who wanted extra help with homework.
This year, ASE students and students in Don Erickson’s Apex class, the school’s special education class, are making the pens. Each finished one is placed in a velvet box with a ribbon and will be presented as part of the gift bag World War II veterans receive before they take the Inland Northwest Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., on Thursday.
“All these men and women risked their lives to keep us free,” said Jack Jensen, an eighth-grader. He said it is important to recognize what the veterans have done for our country, especially now, since many of them are dying.
Erickson’s students have been learning about the Honor Flights and the veterans who make the journey to visit the memorials dedicated to military service.
“I want the veterans to know that they are appreciated,” said eighth-grader Austin Prochnow.
Anthony Huck, another eighth-grader, said he really likes making the pens and has made several of the 105 pens that will be given to veterans.
“I love making pens for people,” he said. He hasn’t kept any of the pens he has made, though each student is allowed to keep one.
Deni Wiggins, a board member of the Inland Northwest Honor Flight, said there are 96 World War II veterans making the journey to Washington, D.C., this month the largest group they have sent. Usually, the veterans take a commercial flight, but this year after a large donation and their usual fundraising efforts, they are chartering a 737.
Each veteran receives a gift bag of puzzles, pens and snacks, along with picture frames painted by elementary school students. They will also get T-shirts they wear on the trip. They will visit Arlington National Cemetery to see the changing of the guard, the Women of Military History Museum, the World War II Memorial, the Vietnam and Korean War memorials, the Navy Memorial and Museum and the Air Force and Marine memorials.
There are 111 World War II veterans on the waiting list to take an Honor Flight and the organization is accepting applications for veterans, their guardians and volunteers.
Wiggins said she knows the veterans will be blown away by the beautiful pens the students have made.
“The veterans are all very moved and surprised by the support they get from the young generations,” she said.
The project is fun and educational. Students use math and hone problem-solving skills. Of the 105 pens they will make, they had made 85 as of Tuesday.
“I think it’s phenomenal,” said Principal Jim McAdam.